ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan's next government will face myriad challenges, from population growth concerns to simmering extremism.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan appears on track to become the country's next prime minister.
The PTI obtained a decisive advantage in parliament, according to results released by the Election Commission of Pakistan Friday (July 27), but did not capture the 137 seats needed to form a government, and as such the PTI will need to form a coalition.
Regardless of who is in charge, the new rulers will have to make hard choices, and quickly.
Here is a rundown of the biggest hurdles Pakistan is facing:
Security has dramatically improved across Pakistan following a crackdown on militant groups in recent years.
But analysts have long warned that Pakistan is not tackling the root causes of extremism, and militants can still carry out spectacular attacks.
That includes during this election season, with a string of bombings at political events taking more than 180 lives, including the second-deadliest militant attack in Pakistan's history.
Insurgents may be regrouping and seeking to reassert themselves after years of setbacks, warn analysts.
Pakistan's next government faces growing fears of a balance of payments crisis, with speculation mounting it will have to seek its second bailout in five years from the International Monetary Fund.
The central bank is going through foreign exchange reserves and devaluing the rupee, including another 5% dive this month, in a bid to bridge a widening trade deficit.
Pakistan, which has long relied heavily on imports, increased its procurement of materials to help build a string of multi-billion-dollar infrastructure projects, leading to fears about Islamabad's ability to pay for them.
Meanwhile, meagre exports such as textiles have taken a hit from cheaper products by regional competitors, including China, while foreign remittances -- a major contributor to the economy -- have slowed.
The economy has also suffered from higher oil prices.
Pakistan has one of the highest birth rates in Asia at about three children per woman, according to the World Bank and government figures.
That rate has led to a fivefold increase of the population since 1960, now touching 207 million, draft results from last year's census show.
The population explosion is negating hard-won economic and social progress in the country, observers have warned.
To add to the problem, discussing contraception in public is taboo.
Analysts say unless more is done to slow growth, the country's natural resources -- particularly drinking water -- will not be enough to support the population.
Pakistan is on the verge of an ecological disaster if authorities do not urgently address looming water shortages, say analysts.
Official estimates show that by 2025 the country will be facing an "absolute scarcity" of water, with less than 500 cubic metres available per person -- just one-third of the water available in parched Somalia, according to the United Nations.
Pakistan has massive Himalayan glaciers, rivers, monsoon rains and floods -- but just three major water storage basins, compared with more than 1,000 in South Africa or Canada.
As such, surplus water is quickly lost.
Political initiative will be essential to building infrastructure to reverse the course of the impending crisis. There is also little in the way of public education on water conservation.
Pakistan has spent roughly half its nearly 71-year history under military rule, and the imbalance of power between civilian governments and the armed forces has long been seen as an impediment to democracy and progress.
Activists and several prominent journalists have also accused the military of trying to install a pliant civilian government through pressure on politicians and the media. It denies the allegations.
The next government will be tasked with meeting the country's challenges without upsetting this delicate balance of power.
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